Using Quantitative Research Approaches to Place Students in Japanese University English Language Classes

Japan, ID CLEaR2015-226

In university English language programs in Japan, students are often tested soon after admission to the university in order to determine their level of English proficiency, so that they can be placed into classes at advanced, intermediate, and basic levels, a result that is generally seen as advantageous for both students and teachers. However, how these test scores are to be used to create placement lists is not always given extensive consideration, especially from a statistical perspective. For example, programs might simply combine test scores or use them in another relatively simple way, probably in part because the specialties of program administrators and teachers tend to be in areas such as linguistics and language, rather than quantitative research methods. In this paper, I will show how placement committees might improve their placement process by using one of a number of approaches from quantitative research methods, such as z scores, factor analysis, and Rasch analysis, to create English class placement lists of students. In addition, because results of these methods vary to some degree, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Key Words: Quantitative Research Approaches, English Language Placement Testing